I AM what is known as a culture
seeker; one who likes a nice bit of nourishing Beethoven - you know where
you are with Ludwig - a steaming slice of Borodin tartare, great bleeding
but intellectually chewy chunks of Wagner and best cuts of Mozart, perhaps
marinated - although not to everyoneís taste - in a sauce a la Scarlatti.
my Chopin-Liszt for CDs and DVDs, I not only look for cream of Chabriet
and semi-skimmed Stockhausen but will also, when it comes to the crunch,
grapple with hardtack Hindemith.
In visual arts, my tastes, I
protest, are catholic. While my art belongs to Dada, for my Monet, I am
passionate for large, succulent slices of sun-ripened Impressionists and
helpings of the old classical masters such as Leonardo da Vinci.
why I have been in Parisís Louvre, surrounded by about 400 other
culture-imbibers, giving the Mona Lisa an admiring appraisal and receiving
that famous, inscrutable smile that reminded me of ones girls sometimes
gave, decades ago, when I asked them onto the floor at some Edinburgh
ballroom and was told: "No thanks, ahím restin."
also seemed to say, "Get lost" - a superfluous injunction since my wife
and I were lost already among that vast collection of paintings, statuary,
objets díart and artefacts housed in one of the worldís leading museum and
In such places, you start off with gazersí
enthusiasm and energy. Here are the Oriental antiquities; there are the
sculptures. Now we see a glowing display of paintings and in the next
gallery, Islamic art in all its splendour. However, after three hours
culture-soaking and seeking passages through crowd maelstroms, fatigue
sets in and we want out.
NO easy matter. The "sortie" signs seem to indicate
a baffling circularity of progress and small print maps are difficult to
read in subdued light. We pass the Venus di Milo with her disarming smile
four times, the goddess Hathor and King Seti I three times and a
hot-water-bottle-shaped African fertility figure twice but exits still
No-one we approached spoke English except a
Vietnamese couple - also lost. Attendants fired machine-gun-rapid
directions that shot to pieces our school French.
we feared our culture-honed, whitened bones might be found one day in an
obscure corner of the archaeological section, an exit unexpectedly loomed
and we staggered out into the refreshing, traffic-fumed air.
galleries, museums and exhibitions often become mazes to me. "Donít wander
off; we havenít time to look for you," a guide warned our Scottish holiday
group when visiting the Hermitage, (then) Leningradís splendid art
I stopped to take photographs and, amazingly, found
the group had disappeared. Desperately, I rushed from gallery to gallery
surrounded by the cream of Western art, all of which I ignored; I only
wanted to see the broad-brush-stroke faces of my cultural comrades.
nightmarish, racing search along corridors crammed with coagulations of
scandalised Oriental and European tourists, I found my group being
lectured on Communismís artistic contribution to civilisation; nobody had
During a visit to a Moscow exhibition of Soviet
achievements, I deliberately parted with my coach-borne party so that I
could, at leisure, take photographs, arranging to meet them at a certain
time and exit.
GOOD planning, except that I underestimated the
exhibitionís size and complexity and found myself disoriented in a
stuff-of-bad-dreams scenario amid massive statues of slab-faced Slavs
eyeing the future with concrete confidence, a wilderness of halls
displaying industrial, agrarian, artistic and scientific successes and,
everywhere, the perspiring proletariat apparently finding English as rare
For a young Tory, as I was then, it was Socialistic
hell on earth. Eventually, I encountered my coach search party and
My most embarrassing cultural calamity occurred
when I arrived late for a classical music concert at a Scottish country
I was told to carry my chair along underground
passages where I would emerge at the back of the concert room.
Inevitably, I got lost but enticed by the siren voice of a soprano, I
opened a door and walked, chair-bearing, onto the stage and hastily,
blushingly, retreated. The audience looked startled but the singerís notes
Those who seek culture should be prepared to